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Velliangiri Hills, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Velliangiri Hills is 40 km from Coimbatore. The road to it winds through Tamil villages, runs lonesome through fields or even forest. When you tumble into the Isha centre, its huge walls with stone serpents as decoration announce firmly the arrival of spiritual tourism in India.
The Isha Foundation has something for everybody. If you are a weekend 'spiritual shopper' you can hop along with the busloads that land to gawk at the yogic temple, the amazing Dhyanalinga, the crafts shop, attend the various functionally-short workshops (Aum chanting), dip into the holy water that strategically runs below the temple, meditate in the cells of the inner temple or attend yoga workshops that promise to expand your soul. The food here is amongst the most interesting I have eaten in any ashram, not stinting in either on taste or variety.
While I personally do not relate to Isha yoga (usually unless you are a spiritual shopper you tend to stick to one style of yoga -- which in my case is Sivananda. Such a choice is not a comment on other styles) I admire their reach and marketing skills. From the rustic to the executive Isha yoga has something practical to offer all its followers. This is a major achievement. I find that most yoga schools are rather vague. They do not offer their followers an independent package which they can take home. In that way, Isha yoga definitely is different.
Next in the series: Vipassana: The path to Nirvana
So, even though the general crowd is touristy and loud, there is also place for serious yogic activity here, all practically organized to fit your time and budget. I myself was enthralled by the Dhyanalinga's design, the hum of running water as it slipped over it. The hum rose and fell steadily like gentle wavelets of aum.
Though serious meditators do not need such enhancements, the sound was certainly otherworldly. Similarly, the noon chants had singers who sang to the gathered crowd. Despite the heat, the bawl of babies not used to sitting still, the soft whispers of restless tourists, my family and I experienced one of the most amazing nada yoga experiences in our life.
The male voice ululated in cadence to some deep drag of bhakti that I was lulled into another state of consciousness altogether. Of course, the next day somebody else sang whose voice did not quite excite the same state of laya or absorption. But do you understand what I am driving at? The Isha Foundation is full of spiritual surprises, that way.
The pretty cottages, the quiet that lies thick between them, the wail of peacocks that wander about unselfconsciously in the distance, the kids in their excited dorms as they endure their yoga camp, the interesting food, the peaceful and self-content volunteers who believe implicitly in their Sadhguru: all of this definitely make the Isha Foundation a must-halt for those who wish to find out the various aspects of yoga in a safe and elegant place.
Accommodation: We visited a centre a few years ago and paid a few hundred rupees for the cottage (and two meals) which are extremely beautiful, large, neat, well-planned. You must check the current rates through the contacts given below. The Isha cottages are amongst the best ashram accommodation I have experienced till date.
You must also book well in advance, at least two weeks in the non-season period and during season (festival time like February or September) several weeks in advance.
Always carry the details of your booking (fax copy, acceptance note etc) with you while landing up there.
Address: 15, Govindasamy Naidu Layout
Tamil Nadu 641 005
Phones: (0422) 2515345, 2515470
E-mail: email@example.com (for accommodation), firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.ishafoundation.org/
Photograph: Courtesy Isha Foundation
Earlier in the series: Sri Ramanasramam: A magnet for meditators
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